How lululemon Builds a More Engaged Service Team
When Dave Pitsch was tapped to manage lululemon’s new 100-person contact center about five years ago he’d never led a contact center. The kicker? The center was to open just days before the holiday season.
“I don’t think there were a ton of companies, frankly, that would have given me that opportunity,” says Dave. “People will rise to the opportunity of a big job…I’m endlessly grateful for the kinds of opportunities that lululemon creates for people.”
Five-and-a-half years later, a lot has changed. The lululemon brand today has over 400 retail stores, a booming e-commerce business, and boasted over $2.5 billion in fiscal revenue in 2017 alone. Dave is now successfully leading the brand’s two North American contact centers, known internally as Guest Education Centers (GECs).
During that time, lululemon’s company culture has taken on a somewhat mythical status. The insights Dave provided us during this week’s webinar shed light on how lululemon maintains its unusually high level of employee engagement within the traditional contact center environment.
Setting the Bar High
According to Dave, there’s a lot of misconception about what agents actually discuss in lululemon’s Guest Education Centers. Although some customers do call in to ask about local yoga classes and organic brunch options, most of the questions are about things more traditional in nature, like sizing or error messages.
“We see these as moments of truth,” explains Dave. “Our guests are at a brand, lululemon, that has really, really high expectations and we have a big challenge to be able to deliver on these moments of truth. What we want guests to say about their experience is pretty aspirational.”
The key to succeeding at this mission is lululemon’s overall company vision: To create transformational experiences for people to live happy, healthy, fun lives.
“Important to this is that it’s not just commitment to our guests, but in many ways, I think more significantly this is the lens against which our employees expect us to deliver,” says Dave. A culture of happy, engaged employees within the contact center environment creates far more fulfilling interactions between guests and sales associates, who are tellingly referred to as “educators.”
The 3 Focuses of Employee Experience
Lululemon is not under the illusion that positive employee experiences happen by accident. The brand is rigorous about tracking employee engagement. Here’s how they do it.
Step One: Build the team to fit to overall culture and individual roles
“It all starts with hiring the right people,” Dave shared. Lululemon has worked diligently to become a magnet for problem solvers. Their hiring process is multi-layered, testing everything from people’s ability to navigate multiple systems to overall tech-savviness.
Identifying the right people upfront means the end team will be better equipped to provide effective solutions to customers. This not only creates a more positive experience for guests by raising the center’s FCR, it lowers turnover within the educator pool, especially within the first three months.
As Dave explains, the goal is for educators to say, “I feel successful, I feel confident, and I feel good about the job I’m doing.”
Step Two: Create clarity on how everyone can impact guest experience
Lululemon understands that it needs to equip its team with success tools. Explains Dave, “Educators want to be able to own the resolution with the guests.”
By empowering educators with real-time feedback through Stella Connect and developing training programs specific to each individual or team, the brand is intentionally creating opportunities for its people to be effective. That effectiveness increases engagement.
“Feedback is a gift. We really believe that,” says Dave. “Stella Connect is an important part of that…We can share at all levels what kind of opportunities we see to make ourselves better.” The company finds that when educators have the ability to be problem solvers in their own areas, guests receive a better experience.
Step Three: Invest in our employees as future leaders in the world
Perhaps what stands out most about lululemon’s commitment to wellness in its workforce is how holistically the company thinks about each of its employees. “We spend a lot of time working on how not only to make people better at their job but better at their life. We really focus on development of the whole person,” expounds Dave.
The management team at lululemon sees its most important job as developing people, not spreadsheets. Achieving this development takes many forms, from one-on-one sessions to team training. This investment results in a more engaged team that’s highly connected to the broader goals of the company.
Dave explains that when educators feel like their managers are supportive, flexible, and that they’ve been given autonomy, they’re more grateful for their role on that particular team. And pouring into people doesn’t just benefit the educators, it makes managers feel better about their work as well. “What’s more fulfilling than feeling like you’re helping people grow in a new direction?” asks Dave.
Lessons from lululemon
The overarching theme of lululemon’s success story is a passion for people. But can “company culture” really be created from scratch? How?
Explains Dave, “Culture is created by everybody. It’s created in lots of moments, big and small. The culture I want won’t happen unless everyone is committed to it.” Hiring and hiring well is the foundational pillar of building a culture of success.
And what advice would lululemon give remote teams given that its call centers are highly consolidated in Vancouver and Mississauga? “At our best, the lululemon experience feels really local,” says Dave. “That’s a challenge for the contact center.”
In addition to physical retail centers and intentionally-designed “connection points” within contact centers, lululemon utilizes technology tools like Stella Connect to bridge the physical distance. Explains Dave, “We’ve found that regular dialogue is more helpful than scheduled one-on-ones.”
Hear from the Brand Itself
Our chat with Dave Pitsch hit on many of the themes we’re hearing again and again from Stella Connect clients leading the conversation around customer experience. At its core, lululemon believes that engaged, empowered employees directly impact customers’ feelings about a brand. They’re right.